By Trevor Chesterfield | March 31, 2010
Indian Premier League circles have been buzzing with rumours how Sri Lanka’s veteran opening batsman worked his way into the side for the ICC World T20 tournament in the West Indies.
Claims supported by sources, which has drawn heavy chatline criticism among Sri Lankans, say that his inclusion in the side has been through political interference. This will all be denied as there is no proof that the Minister of Sport, Gamini Lokuge removed two names in the panel of fifteen for the sixteen day long big bash event starting on April 30.
Sources within the IPL in New Delhi and Mumbai as well as Colombo say there were objections over the changes, which saw the 40-year-old Jayasuriya’s name pencilled over that of Upul Tharanga, while talented Jeewan Mendis had his name removed and replaced by Chinthaka Jayasinghe. Dinesh Chandimal, a 20-year-old wicketkeeper/batsman is the only new cap in the squad of fifteen announced in Colombo on Wednesday.
It has been expected that Jayasuriya, who had been dropped by the Mumbai Indians because of his poor form was not an ideal candidate for the side. Two IPL contacts in New Delhi with Colombo links, suggest there have been some harsh words flying around in the Sri Lankan capital when it was known that the man now bidding to become a politician had been included because of ‘a set of unusual circumstances’ without explanation.
Efforts to reached Kumar Sangakkara for a comment have been unsuccessful while rumours among IPL and Colombo sources are that Ashantha de Mel, the convener of the Sri Lankan selectors and Lokuge had been in contact before the final names were released through the media Wednesday afternoon. The conversation was not cordial.
If it is true that Jayasuriya was included for political reasons, they will attempt the same ploy next year, whether or not he succeeds as a candidate in the April 8 election where he is down a the UPFA candidate for Matara, his hometown.
All this suggests that for the time being, playing in international events rather than representing the people of Matara is Jayasuriya’s idea of how to plan his immediate future. Of course, the former Sri Lanka captain has yet to be elected to parliament, but such is his popularity in that part of Sri Lanka, his election, while not quite guaranteed, is most likely come April 8.
While he and his supporters will not be too happy with such comments as these, it stands to reason that he is happier at present plying his trade as a cricketer than playing a role in parliament. Although his Indian Premier League season has come to a halt and hasn’t played a game since March 20 against the Bangalore Royal Challengers, he seems keen to carry on regardless because of the money involved.
Being included in the Sri Lanka squad of fifteen for the third version of the ICC World T20 big bash in the West Indies has been a matter of selection preferences. His domestic T20 season wasn’t noted for its high-packed adrenaline batting. Now his 2010 IPL record is 32 runs in three innings for an average of 10.66 and two wickets for 52 and a run economy of 7.42. It also seems that the Sachin Tendulkar-led side, already in trouble with their over rates prefer other foreign players in their ranks to the once-dynamic all-rounder who has been trading on his reputation for the last two seasons.
Three years ago it is alleged he used his political connections to get reinstated in the side after being dropped.
Among others axed by their IPL teams but who have been included in the West Indies party are Tillakaratne Dilshan (Delhi Daredevils) and Ajantha Mendis, still loafing around the Kolkata Knight Riders periphery, the events of a muggy Durban evening last year still haunting him as well as the KKR management. That was when Yusuf Pathan cheerfully plundered fourteen runs off four balls in the second super over of the game between KKR and Rajasthan Royals. Jolly good batting as well.
Naturally neither the selectors nor the coach have come up with comments about the side for the event, where they were losing finalists at Lord’s last June. The selectors give a shifty-eyed sulky scowl and would rather see you seated before some CID coterie with the idea of having you grilled and charged for daring to ask such questions. Either that, or threaten to have a white van follow your every movement.
As expected, they didn’t find a place for the 36-year-old Jeevantha Kulatunga, maybe the theme of ‘No Country for Old Men’ was just too much to although Jayasuriya’s age and form and selection begs a few questions. Farveez Maharoof is another they have knocked back; no doubt another spurious reason is because he is not playing at present for the Daredevils they think he is injured.
The rest of the squad make up names you might expect with the only genuine surprise being Dinesh Chandimal, who at least is better than rotund Thilan Kandamby. Others missing from the squad that played last year were Chamara Silva, Isuru Udana, Jehan Mubarak, Indika de Saram and Maharoof, while the found a place for Chamara Kapugedara.
Examination of the two squad shows there are only two genuine seam bowlers and missing a second all-rounder and the view is this could seriously weaken the squad. As it is, Farveez Maharoof successfully returned to IPL action on Wednesday night hours after learning of his noninclusion in the squad. He was brought back in the place of Australian Dirk Nannes, who has played for Holland, after the bowler injured his hand and had stitches placed in the injury. With Wayne Parnell and Ashish Nehra are also out with injury, the Parnell injury keeping him out if the ICC World T20 big bash.
Maharoof bagged two wickets in his first over after waiting two weeks to get back into the side.
Sri Lanka squad: Kumar Sangakkara (Captain), Muttiah Muralidharan (V. Captain), T.M. Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardana, Dinesh Chandimal, Anjelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekera, Suraj Randiv, Ajantha Mendis, Lasith Malinga, Chanaka Welagedara, Chamara Kapugedara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Chinthaka Jayasinghe.
©: Copyright – Trevor Chesterfield.
(For reasons of copyright, permission is required from the author and/or webmaster/editor of islandcricket.lk for publication).